Have you discovered Kansas City’s botanical garden? Powell Gardens, located 15 minutes east of Lee’s Summit on Highway 50, is flush with spring color and just waiting to be explored. Here are five things you may not know about Kansas City’s natural treasure:
1. It’s home to Iris Hill: Currently at its peak bloom, this hidden gem is off the beaten path at Powell Gardens. Located on the eastern edge of the property, the collection of award-winning iris was developed by Dr. Norlan Henderson, a University of Missouri-Kansas City botanist. It includes more than 500 varieties named Award of Merit winners by the American Iris Society.
Peak bloom is typically around mid-May, but is a bit later this year due to cooler temperatures. Beyond enjoying the blooms, visitors love reading the creative names of these amazing flowers! Here’s a look at what’s been blooming this week:
2. It’s nationally recognized for its magnolia collection: Iris Hill is only one of Powell Gardens’ special plant collections. The Gardens also is recognized for its collection of more than 300 varieties of magnolias, some of which are still on trial in the Gardens’ nursery. Blooming from mid-March through June, magnolias gracefully announce the arrival of spring and the transition to summer.
3. It’s carrying forward Kansas City’s legacy of trees: Beyond offering an inspiring and beautiful respite for its visitors, Powell Gardens is committed to changing our community for the better. The Gardens’ Legacy Tree Program launched in 2013 is designed to carry forward the legacy of the magnificent native champion trees of Greater Kansas City.
These trees have stood the test of time and the idiosyncrasies of our climate and environment, yet many are not available commercially for new plantings or are overlooked in favor of trendier (but weaker) alternatives. Through the Legacy Tree Program, Powell Gardens is expanding its own collection of these wonderful trees, planning educational programs to teach others how to select and care for great trees and preserving and propagating the “best of the best” to make these historic trees available for future generations.
4. It fuels KC’s culinary scene: As the nation’s largest edible landscape, Powell Gardens’ Heartland Harvest Garden sits on 12 acres and offers more than 2,000 types of food plants—providing creative juice to the Kansas City culinary scene. Local chefs and culinary experts visit the Gardens regularly to offer cooking demonstrations, one-time-only dining experiences in the Missouri Barn Dinner Series and guest chef appearances for fund raisers and wine tastings.
The traveling farm-to-table series “Outstanding in the Field” made its first-ever stop in Missouri here in 2009, the opening season for the Heartland Harvest Garden. Since then, more than a dozen of the area’s best and most innovative chefs have served up delicious foods fresh from the garden.
5. It’s a not-for-profit public charity: Powell Gardens’ roots reach back to 1948, when George E. Powell, Sr.–who was among the early leaders of the transportation company now known as YRC Worldwide–acquired a beautiful tract of land with a dairy farm and country home. In 1969 he donated the land for use as a regional camp by the Boy Scouts of America. When the scouts no longer needed the land, the Powell Family Foundation began exploring the idea of developing a botanical garden to fill a gap in the cultural attractions available in Greater Kansas City.
Powell Gardens was officially incorporated in 1988, and today it relies on a variety of sources to meet its mission of connecting people to the importance of plants in their lives. Simply visiting the Gardens or joining as a member are easy ways to help keep this natural treasure vibrant and growing for years to come.
If you’ve never explored the natural treasure that is Powell Gardens, now is the time! Plan your visit today at powellgardens.org.